Is ABF super awesome?
May 2, 2012 6:32 AM   Subscribe

Experiences with ABF U-Pack?

Yesterday there was a how-to-move post and a lot of people mentioned ABF U-Pack as being a good way to get around the moving scams.

I have a decent sized move package budget, but I know that our last corporate move exceeded the amount that we have for this move, so we'll have to trim some things. I've considered doing media mail for less important books, for example.

After reading that post I thought that it might be worth exploring ABF.

Some particulars that may impact our situation:

- 2 bedroom house, large office, dozens of book boxes, tons of outdoor gear, kids' toys, and basement full of crap.
- I'm willing to pack (and in the midst of packing) our books and some of our belongings, but I liked the moving team in our last move doing things like taking apart and wrapping furniture, wrapping stuff, efficiently packing our things - especially kitchen stuff.
- There is no way that we could move the big furniture ourselves.
- I think that it would take us a long time to take apart our furniture.
- We have decent access to moving boxes through our neighborhood listserv.
- Every hour that we'd be moving ourselves is an hour that we're not working and we're paying for childcare.
- We will be moving in DC. In July. To Seattle.
- We live in a dense city neighborhood. I think that we'd have to get authorized for the container. This costs money, right?
- How long can you reasonably have the container out there?
- Our neighborhood isn't UNSAFE, but leaving a container on the street might be a security issue issue.
- We have a small child, so we don't have as much spare time and we have to maintain somewhat of a normal routine.
- There are some health/fatigue issues going on that means that packing could wipe us out. Money is limited, but health trumps money.
- On the other end we will have more flexibility for unpacking, but no childcare.
- On the other end we may need to put some of our things in off-site storage.

Given this, would it be easier just to pay for Mayflower to do it for us and get it over with? Or is ABF just so awesome and easy that we need to consider it?
posted by k8t to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I just used ABF back in Feburary to move from Louisiana to Pittsburgh. It was just myself, and I only brought about half of a house of furniture due to a divorce. That being said, it was awesome and super cheap. I ended up using the Relo-Cubes, but keep in mind you can also get a truck and have them drive that instead. I ordered 2 cubes, which are much smaller than a Pod-brand container.

- It was cheap. The total cost was about $1600; moving companies such as Mayflower were quoting me upwards of $6,000, even though I was moving the equivalent of a 1-bedroom apartment.
- They did exactly what they promised. The cubes were delivered to my house within the 3-hour time window that I was promised. It took about 1 hour for the driver to unload the cubes and place them at my house. On the Louisiana end, I had a driveway, so I didn't have issues with placement.
- You provide your own locks - 2 per cube. I went and bought the largest, sturdiest locks I could, which made me feel better about leaving all my belongings in the cubes.
- I had 3 days to load. I really only used 1.5 days. I am female, and had my mother and one sturdy boy help me. Even the really heavy furniture wasn't hard using a dolly. The cubes are basically level with the ground, so no crazy lifting required.
- You absolutely MUST be good at packing stuff tetris-like to get the most out of your space. For me, I packed all clothes and linens in large garbage bags, and used those to stuff empty spaces and pad things.
- I didn't have any breakage, but I did scuff a headboard by not putting a blanket between it and the cube wall.
- The cubes were delivered right on time to my house in Pittsburgh. My neighborhood is very urban with street parking, so I snagged a good parking spot with my car and moved it when the cubes arrived. I didn't have to get a permit or any such thing.
- I hired a few guys to unload the cubes - it cost $150 and we were done in 2 hours. Best money I ever spent. The cubes were picked up the next morning, though I believe you have a few days if you need it.

I may think of some other things later, and if you have any specific questions, let me know.
posted by tryniti at 6:49 AM on May 2, 2012

My experience with ABF was unpleasant. The driver arrived late for pick-up. My stuff arrived several days late. They couldn't give me straight answers on ETAs for delivery the whole time - very difficult to get help arranged and settle in, to say the least. The night my stuff was delivered, there was a complaint in a completely different area of town about a completely different truck with a completely different account name which somehow dispatched a driver to my drop-off - I got home just in time from an errand to stop him from driving off with it!

When I called with feedback, the CSR was extremely combative and it seemed like she was more afraid I would ask for compensation than interested in improving the process or even just apologising. I was finally put in touch with a manager of some sort, and he was no better.

Overall, I feel I overpaid for extremely poor service and way too much worry.

need to find that other thread...
posted by batmonkey at 6:51 AM on May 2, 2012

As far as moving stuff yourselves, there's no reason to. If you're using ABF, there's no reason you can't hire local movers to load the truck or containers. Likewise, using ABF doesn't mean you can't hire local packers.

This also makes the "how long can you leave the containers out" concerns more or less go away. You'll need them out during a working day. They'll drop them off in the morning, your movers will fill them quickly, and then you call ABF to take them away.

The last time we moved, we moved a (stuffed) two-bedroom apartment and academic office using ABF boxes. We had packed ahead of time, and a gang of movers got them loaded in a couple of hours.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:58 AM on May 2, 2012

Consider that a lot of your stuff, especially stuff you'd describe as "crap," may not be worth moving such a long distance. If you've got to take it all then ABF probably isn't a great match for your needs because you need help packing, and packing is not the service that ABF provides.
posted by jon1270 at 7:06 AM on May 2, 2012

I did a long-distance move with an ABF truck (not the cubes) and really enjoyed the cheapness. I packed it myself, but could have used local movers on each end. I did have a smoke smell in my linens/etc, so I just washed everything once and it went away. I had a tracking number with 24-hour access to "where is all my crap?".

I'd do it again.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:06 AM on May 2, 2012

We used ABF-U-pack (relocubes) to move across the country. It took us (two healthy but admittedly exhausted from getting married the previous weekend late-20's folks) a solid week to pack those containers, and we were working with a 1 bedroom-apartment, though we did have lots of stuff.

The service was perfect. Right on time on both ends, courteous and I never felt like I was being jerked around or taken advantage of.

We lived in a sketch-tastic neighborhood when we were packing, and we bought really good locks for the pods. We did have to keep closing and opening and locking and unlocking...because if something wasn't bolted or chained or locked, it would grow legs. We never saw evidence of actual tampering with the containers when they were closed.

I would second ROU Xenophobe and hire movers to pack your containers, especially since you have an opportunity cost issue.

Something I like about the relocubes is that they are flat-bedded across the country like that- you don't have to wait for the trailer to get filled with other stuff.
posted by rockindata at 7:07 AM on May 2, 2012

> - How long can you reasonably have the container out there?

My neighbors have had theirs out for about a year.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:08 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

@jon1270, as a veteran of a cross-country move a year and a half ago, I promise that I purged before moving back then.

But what we discovered is that stuff like 1/2 bottles of aspirin or paper towels or light bulbs are worth moving because they weigh little and you have to buy them on the other end. Same for bathroom mats, small trash baskets, etc.
We were pretty ruthless.
posted by k8t at 7:09 AM on May 2, 2012

Ah, not really crap. I totally understand that. I moved twice in the last 4 months, though it was shorter distances, and took a lot of similar stuff.

Last summer I helped a friend pack for a move across the country. He got rid of a lot before he left, and still found more to discard after he arrived.
posted by jon1270 at 7:25 AM on May 2, 2012

I used the ABF cube when I moved to Memphis, although we did the cube packing at their depot rather than at my apt b/c I didn't have a flat place to leave the cube overnight. We packed one cube, for contents of a 1br apartment, by ourselves (me & my husband) in one day. I also did all the packing myself, but that's b/c I'm a control freak. The cube was definitely the cheapest option, and I didn't have any problems except for some furniture rubbing. I padded and wrapped the heck out of all my stuff, but I think the trucks the cubes go in don't have that "easy ride" suspension or whatever it is that regular moving trucks offer. A few pieces clearly were rubbing against each other during the move, and they got scuffed even through the layers of padding.

Given that you have a small child, I would definitely look into hiring local movers to pack/unpack the cube. If your stuff is packed it probably won't take more than 1/2 a day or so to stuff the cube.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:56 AM on May 2, 2012

My husband and I moved from Denver to the DC Metro area (although outside of DC in a fairly rural area) last July and used ABF U-Pack and they were awesome. I can't speak to the whole security, getting clearance thing since we moved from a house to a house, but I can speak to the service etc.

The person I spoke with on the phone was great and sent me everything in an email so I had it in writing. There were even a few pieces of information that weren't on their standard contract, but she wrote it in an official email for me. I've been burned badly by interstate movers before so my "shady" meter is really high and they did everything they could to make sure I felt secure about what they were telling me. They dropped off exactly when they said they would, they picked up when they said they would, they delivered a day early (there's wiggle room in when they deliver though, we just happened to be there ready for it so we were happy to have the stuff). The drivers were great and very informative with a few questions we had. This was way, way, way, way cheaper than what we would have to pay for other options.

The only downside is that they wouldn't do an in-person estimate--they will drop off more containers than you think you'll need and only charge you for what you use however. This makes for an interesting budgeting situation if money is an issue, so you might want to budget for an extra container just in case if that's possible.

You can really fit a ton of stuff into the containers though. We had friends help us move stuff into them (although hiring local movers to load will be fairly inexpensive all things considered and a totally viable option) and everyone was reeeaallly skeptical about what was going to fit into them when we were carrying the stuff out into our driveway. Most things fit--but we got rid of a lot of furniture and stuff so we could start fresh in a new place. If we had gotten the extra container everything would have fit easily, but we used it as an opportunity to purge even more stuff and donate to our local thrift store. (Speaking of, we were traveling with a uhaul trailer and left that empty so we could take bigger items to the thrift store after assessing what fit).

Because you have so much stuff I recommend you have one of the van lines come in and give you an estimate. Do this with two or three companies so you have a really good idea of what to expect in terms of space. The problem is usually weird shaped items and appliances take up a lot of space if you're bringing any of those.

posted by Kimberly at 7:57 AM on May 2, 2012

Oh yeah, and we moved stuff out of the house and packed 2 cubes in about 2.5 hours. That was with pretty much everything in a box or wrapped, centrally located, and ready to go though.
posted by Kimberly at 7:59 AM on May 2, 2012

For the packing, unpacking and loading check out these guys:

College Hunks

I saw them on Shark Tank. I suspect that they'll be better than random dudes you find at the Home Depot.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:00 AM on May 2, 2012

Did a 3 relocube move last year from San Francisco to Portland, went perfect, did a month of storage for two of the cubes so we could pack and move in discrete phases. Relocubes work well, they are sturdy and made of aluminum and you provide your own sturdy locks, 2 per cube.

Two cubes take up about the space that a decent sized car or SUV would occupy. There were no problems, everyone was polite and prompt when we talked to them.
posted by iamabot at 9:08 AM on May 2, 2012

I used one ABF U-Pack box when I moved from Seattle to Michigan, and it was indeed awesome! I lived on a very narrow street (the kind where only one car can get through at a time) and was very worried about needing a permit to have the box take up a parking spot, but honestly was so stressed by the time I was ready to move that I just left it to chance, and had no problems. They can plan for having the park down the block and use a forklift to move the box into a tight spot. I made sure the parking space in front of my building was free, my container was there for three days, and it was very stress free to arrange drop off and pick up. They arrived when they said they would and dealing with them on the phone was pleasant.

Hiring movers to unpack is surprisingly inexpensive, and even when it's just two people, it goes so much faster than expected. I can't remember what it ended up being, but I used them for another cross country move while using U-Haul's containers. (ABF was the cheapest option by far when I moved from Seattle to Michigan, but when I moved from Michigan to Arizona U-Haul was the cheapest, and I had a pretty good experience with them--not as good as ABF, though!)

Good luck with the move--packing before putting everything in the cube is the worst part. Everything else is always shockingly easy, at least in my experience.
posted by thesocietyfor at 10:03 AM on May 2, 2012

I used ABF UPack to move from DC, and I think one of things that made it a TON easier to actually pack the cube was to pony up $20-40 to buy a big pack of standard-size moving boxes from Home Depot. We didn't bring a ton of furniture with us--mattress, box spring, bedside tables, kitchen tables and chairs was pretty much it--and everything else went into one of those boxes. Because you know the exact measurements of the boxes, and the exact measurements of the cube, it makes it much easier to figure out before-hand which boxes need to go where and whether you'll have enough room.

I suspect that the amount of stuff you actually put into boxes (with bubble wrap and/or packing paper as necessary) makes a huge difference in how difficult it is to load up the container, and how much is damaged in the move. If you have a relatively furniture-heavy move (including things like lamps or TVs that don't have the original boxes anymore), I think you could make a pod / upack situation work but it will be significantly more tiring to load up the box and you have a much higher chance of damage. Of course, if much of your furniture is IKEA you should figure out whether the several-thousand-dollar difference between ABF and a moving company is bigger than the cost of replacing that stuff (which was definitely the case with us!).
posted by iminurmefi at 3:08 PM on May 2, 2012

I used an ABF UPack Relocube for my move from California to Massachusetts a couple of years ago. It was much cheaper to do terminal-to-terminal, so we rented U-Hauls on either end to get our stuff between the Cube and our apartment. That took maybe a few hours.

It worked really well for us because we had everything in boxes or plastic bins that we could stack all the way to the ceiling, and the only furniture we had was a bed and a table that came apart and lay flat. (Oh, and a vacuum cleaner, which we didn't secure properly and got all scraped up! It still works but it's not pretty.) I don't think it would work as well if you had a lot of furniture.

ABF was by far the cheapest moving company I found in all my research, so I think with the money you save you could hire independent movers to help you get your stuff packed.
posted by apricot at 5:03 PM on May 2, 2012

I had a horrible experience, to the point where I don't want to go into details because it was really upsetting and remains upsetting. Sorry that isn't so useful. Not the company you want to deal with if anything remotely unexpected happens. I would never go near ABF U-Pack again.

I packed everything myself over three days, and was in bed for a spell after that. Even my feet were trashed from going back and forth from container to house.
posted by kmennie at 5:14 PM on May 2, 2012

I used ABF to move from California to Long Island in 1995. The truck driver dropping off my stuff extorted me for about $50 before letting us unload. Follow up phone calls to the company were useless.
posted by exogenous at 3:33 AM on May 3, 2012

We used them to move from the midwest to the southeast in 2003. They dropped off a container that was basically the back end of a semi truck, perhaps a bit shorter. We loaded all our stuff in the space designated, and I believe we had to install braces when we were finished. It arrived in our new house a week or so later. The stuff had shifted quite a bit, and so there was a little scuffing of things like bookcases and bedboards, but nothing too bad. I remember it not costing too much, and other than having to wait a little longer than I'd have liked, it was a positive experience. If I were to do it again, though, I'd check out PODs.
posted by statolith at 12:19 PM on May 3, 2012

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